NC Supreme Court rejects Duck beach access case 

By on March 15, 2022

Bob Hovey says he’ll continue the battle by other means

Sea Breeze Drive Access in Duck.

Bob Hovey, the Duck business owner who has waged a three-year legal battle for public beach access in the town, acknowledged that this battle has come to an end. But the war, he indicated, is not over.

In a Facebook post on the evening of March 15, Hovey wrote that, “We regret to inform everyone that the Supreme Court of North Carolina has decided not to hear our case and the Appellate Courts decision to overturn the Public Beach Access will stand as law at Sea Breeze Drive for now. Unfortunately, this will have a big impact on several disputed beach accesses throughout Dare County and North Carolina.”

Hovey, who has for years led a crusade for public beach access in the northern Outer Banks town, filed the lawsuit in 2019, several months after being arrested and charged with second-degree trespassing when attempting to use the access at the end of Sea Breeze Drive. These charges were later dropped.

He argued in the suit that a beach access in the Sand Dollar Shores subdivision is in the public trust, but on April 6, 2020, a North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision from a Camden County Superior Court Judge and ruled that the Sea Breeze beach access in the subdivision is private. Almost immediately, Hovey announced his intention to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court.

In the March 15 Facebook post signed by Hovey and his wife Tanya, he said that their “immediate plans” include an intent to petition “the Town of Duck to create additional state-owned roadside parking, handicapped access, and cooperation from elected officials in maintaining accessible opportunity at Plover Drive as the public has enjoyed for nearly 50 years as a publicly deeded access.”

He added that there will be an effort to convince officials at the Duck Research Pier “to return the former public parking lot, picnic gazebo, and 4×4 vehicle access to a public access” and to re-open the former Duck Pier Public Beach. And he pledged to “use the attention and publicity this case has gained to seek any and all opportunities to create access to the beautiful beaches in Duck, Dare County, North Carolina, and beyond for the public to enjoy.”

“The fight for access in Duck is far from over,” he added in the final paragraph of the lengthy post.


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  • lippy

    What this article, and Hovey himself, fails to expound on is that he runs a business in Duck and was using the Sand Dollar Shores access to take customers to the beach make money for himself.

    Hovey has falsely portrayed his position as an advocate for the little guy against the big bad town of Duck. He’s not some impoverished local; he owns multiple homes and a business. Is he using donations to pay his legal fees? Doesn’t seem right to me.

    He ain’t no hero standing up for the little guy as he would like to have everyone think, although it plays well in the media and among the general public. It’s all about his business.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 8:18 am
  • Handyman

    Never knew that the research pier was public? When was it privatized?

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 11:06 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    In his post last night, Hovey said the beach access was closed after 9/11.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 12:56 pm
  • OBXer

    Hovey loses. No surprise. You can’t make people give up their private property rights no matter how entitled you think you are.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 12:42 pm
  • C A


    Say what you wish about the man, his businesses, houses, wealth, and motivation.

    The fact remains that one of our OBX towns has no public beach access, not one.

    This makes a beautiful stretch of NC coastline inaccessible to many people.

    While the town probably enjoys the exclusivity with that as well the local property owners along the coast in Duck, it is not right, and should not stand.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 1:00 pm
  • Beach4me

    Turns out you can’t force people to give up their private property rights. Who would have guessed? (sarcasm) This was a giant wild goose chase. I feel bad for the people who thought Hovey was actually representing the little guy. This was all about forcing private property owners to let Hovey, his vacation home renters, and his DVO customers use their private property solely for his own profit.

    Anyone who donated to Hovey’s fundraiser to fund this hoax was scammed. He’s been taking exotic vacations on their dime the whole time. Look at his FB page. He just got back from vacationing in the South Pacific. Your donated money had a nice tropical vacation while you didn’t.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 1:46 pm
  • KittyHawkResident

    He does have a point with a lack of access no matter if he’s a business owner or not.

    My question regarding access to Duck and Southern Shores beaches. Why should Dare County tax dollar go to help fund Duck & Southern Shores beach renourishment projects when these towns do not provide access to all Dare County residents. If they want to keep their beaches semiprivate them they need to pay the whole tab themselves.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 2:39 pm
  • RGM

    I would love to know if my state and/or county tax dollars goes to fund Duck’s private beaches’ sand replenishment projects. I Googled and it looks like they do, but I am surprised and thought I would ask others for their inputs. If this is in fact true, I am surprised that as a tax payer, I am forced to contribute to the maintenance of beaches I am not allowed to visit and owned by entitled Duck property owners.
    – From an interested Dare County resident

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 3:44 pm
  • Lippy dont get it

    Lippy, regardless of him owning a business or not, it was an attempt to establish a PUBLIC beach access in duck. If it was originally zoned for public use it’s worth the effort to keep it public. A lot of taxpayer would appreciate a public beach access in duck. You’re crying about the wrong things.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 3:50 pm
  • surf123

    Chalk one up for the rule of law as it pertains to private property rights. Feel good people like Hovey have no problem walking all over others rights so long as it benefits themselves. Does it suck that there is limited access to the beaches of Duck? Yes but that is the way it is in other places in Dare County. As an example in RWS there is no public access to the beaches with the exception of the public beach access by the water plant in Rodanthe and on either end of the villages once you enter the park.

    It is trespassing to cross any parcel without permission to gain access to the beach. This applies even if the road is maintained by the state. You can drive on those roads, but most are not wide enough to support parking and you still would not gain anything. On most streets or communities there are one or more oceanfront lots with an easement for the exclusive benefit of the other owners on the street or in that community. These people purchased land with deeded access to the ocean.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 4:19 pm
  • Tom R

    Three points.

    1. The beaches in Duck are public. All beaches in NC are public. It’s the land abutting the beach that’s privately owned property in Duck and the public cannot trespass on private property to get to the public beach. The Appellate Court’s 3-0 ruling against Hovey makes this distinction clear:

    “The Town of Duck is a seaside resort community that provides no public beach access. All oceanfront lots there are privately owned and have been since before Duck was incorporated in 2002. Although members of the public are entitled to walk on the beach, wade in the ocean, and otherwise use the natural resources abutting the boundaries of these properties, the land between the beach and public streets and highways belongs to private landowners.”

    2. This mess was created by Dare County prior to the Town of Duck’s incorporation. For whatever reason, they allowed and legally recorded all the land abutting the beach to be private property with no land set aside to provide public access to the public beach.

    3. As all beaches in NC are public, it is in fact the public’s obligation to fund any and all beach nourishment projects anywhere in NC.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 6:10 pm
  • Ray

    No tourists nor locals who live on the west side of hwy 12 in duck have legal access to the beach in duck , this isn’t right , as the tax money for the beach replenishment comes from the property taxes of Duck ( and a little from federal and state grant monies , not other date county residents) , while it is wasted spending in my opinion, it directly protects those oceanfront homes and the beach , yet over half of those who pay for it , are not legally allowed to access the beach they are taxed to replenish , ( and pay to have lifeguards there ) , the point of business use on said beaches is a different point , surf lessons are almost no impact , positive impact though … but the businesses who setup umbrellas/chairs/tents etc use all the accesses , illegally it seems , and have a huge impact , ( & huge receipts $$$ ) taking up most of the prime beach spots before 8am every day, , The Duck town council ( & the almost 20 million budget ) must address this , they have washed there hands of it so far.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 6:47 pm
  • Sean Mulligan

    I live in Southern Shores and wonder how they can get money from the State and County for beach nourishment when they do not have any public access. There was public access before 911at the research pier and the Army corp of Engineers used it as an excuse to close it down to the public.Yes there were a few instances of graffiti and some trash left around by a few people but the majority were respectful and enjoyed the fishing and surfing in the area.The beaches are public and the public should have access.There have been other battles about public access on the West coast and they have won most of the cases so if he can get the right organizations involved he probably will ultimately win.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 7:13 pm
  • D

    To everyone who’s arguing about “private property rights” — you can’t simultaneously cry foul over “trespassing” while using public money to nourish the receding beach. It’s one or the other. I’d love for the town of Duck to pay to reseed my lawn, but that’s not how private property works. If it is indeed private, then the neighborhood HOA deserves to pay 100% of the maintenance cost.

    Not to mention the sheer inanity of the fact that some owners in Duck apparently have so little to complain about that they’re calling the police on people for going to the wrong section of the beach.

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 7:49 pm
  • realist

    Hovey and wife own a rental house on Osprey Ridge rd, Not only do they use it in winter to store commercial property they also CAN NOT RENT at the price they want because there is no beach access..BOO HOO you picked the wrong property to exploit and now you ask others to help with your legal bills? Selfish scammer!!

    Wednesday, Mar 16 @ 7:55 pm
  • BDoggy

    Literally five seconds of a Google Search will tell you that taxpayer funds are not used for beach nourishment. Hovey and others push the narrative that taxpayer dollars go to funding beach nourishment, but that is simply not true.

    Dare County’s Beach Nourishment Fund is funded by a 2 percent portion of Dare County’s 6 percent Occupancy Tax. This 2 percent portion is restricted by legislation to be used for the placement of sand from other sand sources, the planting of vegetation and the building of structures that are in conformity with the North Carolina Coastal Area Management Act (such as sand fences and dunes) on beaches of the Atlantic Ocean of North Carolina for the purpose of widening the beach to benefit public recreational use and mitigating damage and erosion from storms to inland property.

    Thursday, Mar 17 @ 7:37 am
  • John

    If there are no public access to beach in Duck and southern shores……….
    Then our property tax money should not be used for their towns………..
    We have go to beach in kh,kdh, nags head although we own and live in Duck west side
    Say what you want about hovey and his intentions for his business.
    He’s still right. It’s total bs

    Thursday, Mar 17 @ 7:48 am
  • But

    The fact of the matter is that the plat for Sand Dollar Shores does dedicate the access to the public.

    Thursday, Mar 17 @ 8:10 am
  • K

    Public funding of private beach is not right and not fair. Either allow access or pay for it yourself. No other Town in Dare County operates in this manner. Duck and Duck Council are wrong and need to do better.

    Thursday, Mar 17 @ 8:15 am
  • Steve

    All beaches in NC are in the public trust. That’s why tax money is used to fund beach nourishment projects. Whether the land abutting the beach is public or private has no bearing on that. It’s the same as when tax money is used to repair public roads. Only the roads are repaired, not the abutting land owners’ property.

    Thursday, Mar 17 @ 9:01 am
  • Lemonshirt

    I guess Duck is the Martha’s Vineyard of NC. Rich property owners have a right to be protected and segregated from all us low-life renters. Isnt that the way its always been. Let us eat cake.

    Thursday, Mar 17 @ 9:33 am